GENEVA -- Ecuador kept its place at the World Cup on Friday when a FIFA legal ruling rejected a complaint by Chile about an alleged ineligible player.
FIFA said its disciplinary committee closed the proceedings in the claim that Ecuador defender Byron Castillo, who played in eight qualifying games, was ineligible.
Chile’s soccer federation claimed to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian.
Ecuador risked forfeiting all eight games as 3-0 losses and dropping from fourth place in the South American qualifying group that ended in March. Chile would have risen to fourth in the standings and claimed the last automatic qualification place.
“After analyzing the submissions of all parties concerned and considering all elements brought before it, the FIFA disciplinary committee has decided to close the proceedings initiated against the (Ecuador soccer federation),” FIFA said in a statement.
Chile can challenge the ruling at FIFA’s appeals committee and potentially later at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The legal process could take at least several weeks, pushing the uncertainty closer to the tournament being played in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18.
The World Cup draw was made April 1 and Ecuador was drawn in a group with host Qatar, the Netherlands and Senegal.
Ecuador and Chile both last played at the World Cup in 2014 hosted by Brazil. Ecuador did not advance from the group stage and Chile was eliminated by Brazil in the Round of 16.
Both missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after Chile also filed a complaint alleging a rival team fielded an ineligible player.
That case — involving Bolivia defender Nelson Cabrera, who was born in Paraguay — was successful but ultimately benefited Peru, which rose above Chile in the standings to reach the playoffs and advance to Russia.
Peru is back in the international playoffs next week after again placing fifth in the South American group. Peru faces Australia on Monday in Doha for a spot in the finals tournament.
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